Dating Dictionary: Friends & Benefits

We all have them, and sometimes they drive us crazy.

We have the best kind (“Alana is my best friend because I wouldn’t function properly without her in my life.”), the kind that you only see in specific settings (“Melanie, my friend from camp/work/class.”), the kind you meet in crazy situations (“I met Andy at this party where neither of us knew the host. I don’t remember it all, but basically we drank an entire handle of the strongest liquor they had and stole their giraffe statue. We’ve been friends ever since.”), the list goes on. We have many friends for many different aspects of our lives, and not everyone is meant to stay, but they’re all meant to teach you something.

Friendship is an extremely important variable in dating. To be in a successful relationship, I feel as though you need to find a friendship in whoever you’re dating before anything. While friendships don’t always blossom before relationships do, I find that as long as both parties are working towards knowing and understanding one another fully, a companionship of epic proportions can be created. After all, arranged marriages, as archaic and borderline inhumane as they seem, have the possibility to grow into mature and healthy relationships because of the fact that two people learn to love and respect one another.

In learning to love, friendship plays a big part. Learning to love someone means that you acknowledge their faults and supplement them in the ways that you can. It means not trying to change someone, but complement them in a way to help them to be their best. It also means if ever necessary to draw a line and having the other person respect that. A large basis of friendship is respecting someone for who they are and letting them be that for you. As beautiful of a sentiment, it’s a hard thing to push out of your mind all the ways you desire to “fix” someone and just accepting them how they are. This is a feat I still have yet to master, and at this rate, I genuinely wonder if I ever will.

When talking about friendship and dating, we get into the unchartered, often dangerous, territory of a Friend with Benefits. Personally, I have no clue what this is supposed to mean, because wouldn’t that technically constitute as a significant other? “Benefits” infers sexual intimacy, but the “Friends” bit should connotate that respect and acceptance in a relationship between two people: a reliance upon that person for support, a willingness to share more than just your body with a person. If you do all those things with them, that sounds like a whole relationship to me without a title attached.

I don’t think many people see it that way, but they should. If you’re having multiple friends with benefits situations, it seems like a lot to juggle based on this loosely-defined phrase. Even one can seem like a ton of work if you talk to them consistently, spend regulated time with one another. Casual sex is so different from being friendly and involved with someone in the way a “Friends with Benefits” situation might suggest.

Often, when people tell me about their FWB situations, it seems more like a reoccurring one-night-stand. They’re detached from this person, in however which way: mentally, emotionally, socially; but the physicality of the act keeps them around. When it comes to me, I can’t just enjoy empty sex like that. I have to like the person that I’m choosing to give myself to, because if I don’t enjoy their company, I don’t see any point to engage. Meaningless sex has more often than not left me feeling dirty, used, and disappointed, simply because it’s just a movement without an emotional response.

It’s like exercise. You start because you’re aiming for a specific means to an end, whether it be for the hormone high to release in your brain or for the physical proof of your body developing. When you’re working towards a goal, you attribute your success to an emotional response: happiness in this example. Every time you get closer to your goal, your emotional resonance with that feeling gets stronger. If you went to the gym and saw no results, felt no different and saw no interaction between your goal and your work, you’d probably stop going. The same premise lies in a relationship lacking an emotional connection. If you don’t really get anything out of it but a good lay, if even that, doesn’t that get boring eventually? How does something like that truthfully enrich your life?

With this question in mind, Friends with Benefits situations end one of two ways. Either you start dating, or you don’t because one of you caught feelings and the other is completely fine with the physical. I always find that part so uncomfortable, because it’s just sad. Someone is willing to say, “let’s do this,” and the other person has to turn them down because they just don’t feel the same. And even if two people give a shot at a relationship, eventually one person could realize it wasn’t what they wanted and they would have to let the other person down, if it even ends that amicably. It’s a very sad situation that comes from a hollow foundation to begin with.

What do you think, have you been in Friends with Benefits situations? Do you care for them? Do they work for you?

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